Who Does Fire Authority Union Chief Work For?

Just before the Orange County Fire Authority Board of Directors approved a package of budget reductions at their March meeting, they asked union President Joe Kerr an interesting question.

What is it that you do for us?

The question came up when Board Member Mark Tettermer took issue with the fire authority paying the union president’s salary. Tettermer questioned the fire authority’s release time agreement with Kerr, which allows him to do union business and lobby on behalf of the organization instead of fighting fires.

“It’s my philosophical belief that this agency or any other agency shouldn’t be underwriting the salary of the union,” Tettermer said.

That’s when Board Member David Shawver posed the question, in what seemed to be an orchestrated move to remind Tettermer that Kerr is as valuable to the OCFA as he is to the union.

“Tell us a little bit about the amounts of money that you have been able to bring in,” Shawver said.

“It amounts to a thousand years of buyouts,” Kerr responded.

Kerr cited nearly $206 million in revenue that, through his lobbying efforts at the state and national level, has gone straight to the OCFA’s bank account.

“When you can’t cross the aisle, we can. When you can’t get into the governor’s door, we can,” Kerr said.

Kerr went further, saying the release time agreement he has with the OCFA means that he works in the department’s interest.

“The agreement says I work for you guys,” Kerr said.

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled OCFA Board Member David Shawver’s name. We regret the error.